A Dangerous Opportunity

I once learned that the Chinese character for “crisis,” can literally be translated as dangerous opportunity. If nothing else can be defined as a crisis, middle school can be.

This past week, the National Public Radio show, This American Life, explored the lives of middle schoolers at the prompting of a young listener who characterized it as the “whitewashed, brick-walled, iron-gated prison that is commonly known as middle school.” In the course of the show, host Ira Glass interviewed Linda Perlstein, the author of Not Much, Just Chillin’, The Hidden Lives of Middle Schoolers.

Perlstein revealed that early adolescents grow as much as infants – both mentally and physically. “But your brain, your gray matter– during the middle school years, what happens in your early stages of puberty is this fast overproduction of brain cells and connections, far more than you actually need. And only some of them are going to survive puberty,” she said.

Certainly researchers and others may argue about the science behind this statement. One thing, however, is clear: early adolescents go through tremendous change and growth; their experiences at this time help form them significantly into the kind of adults they will become.

Given that fact, churches have a “dangerous opportunity” to help establish middle school brain connections that will eventually become an adult life of faith. What are our churches “wiring” into the brains of their middle schoolers? How might practices of faith become imbedded into not only their brains, but their lives?

Share your story of what your church is doing to enhance the faith life of middle schoolers. What kinds of faith practices do you want to “wire” into young people this age?


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